PANJIM: As many as 17,500-odd postal ballots of government servants and police personnel will play a crucial role in deciding the fate of the 251 candidates in the fray for the 40 Assembly constituencies. Only 3300 postal ballots have been received till date, ten days after voting was held on February 4. The last date for receiving postal ballots is March 11, the counting day.
Sources at the Chief Electoral Office (CEO) confirmed that there are 9121 postal ballots in South Goa, of which only 2500 have exercised their right so far, while 800 postal ballots from the 8469 have been received from North Goa.
“Over 17,590 postal ballots have been issued to government employees and police personnel across the State, who were engaged in election duty on February 4. The officers were posted at 1,642 polling stations,” sources said confirming that the employees have time till the morning of March 11 to send in their postal ballots.
Poriem MLA Pratapsingh Rane had raised serious concern about the delay in casting postal ballots and raised fears of possible influence or purchase of votes by the ruling BJP. “This is first time in my career that I have seen such long time granted for postal ballots. This needs to be seriously monitored by the Election Commission. I have every doubt that the votes would be purchased by the opponents,” he had said.
Following allegations from sections of people especially political parties that government servants are being pressurised to issue postal ballot in their favour, the chief electoral office has warned to initiate action under the law against anyone offering a bribe or putting pressure or anyone accepting a bribe or demanding a bribe.
Additional CEO Narayan Navti has appealed to people to file a complaint on toll free number 1950 if anyone come across such act by government servants.
Marcaim constituency has the highest number of postal ballots, which is 826, followed by Pernem 840, Poriem with 808 ballots and 804 votes in Canacona.
Marcaim has been represented by MGP for many years, while Pernem saw a BJP win in 2012. The postal ballots will play a crucial role in Pernem, as the BJP MLA and Minister Rajendra Arlekar is facing a tough contest from Manohar Azgaonkar who is contesting on MGP-GSM ticket.
In Canacona constituency too, the postal ballot could play a major role, with the ruling BJP facing a revolt and possible split of votes between their candidate Vijay Pai Khot and rebel Ramesh Tawadkar.
There are around 761 postal ballots in Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar’s Mandrem constituency. This is followed by Priol (675), Sanvordem (589), Quepem (580), Ponda (568), Bicholim (542) and Shiroda (507).
Calangute, the only constituency that saw a triangular fight, has the least number of postal ballot with 130, followed by Benaulim 131 and Navelim 218. Nuvem has 225 postal ballots, Saligao 237, Velim has 240, Mapusa has 262, St Andre has 281.
There are total 1310 postal ballots distributed amongst Vasco, Dabolim, Mormugao and Cortalim Assembly seats. Margao and Fatorda together have 807 postal ballots.
To cast a postal ballot, those in government service posted on poll duty can cast a postal ballot.The voter post casting postal ballot has to sign a declaration Form 13A in the presence of a stipendiary magistrate and get it attested by the magistrate.
Campaigning in Pernem continues, postal ballots will be the kingmaker
PERNEM: Though elections to the Assembly ended on February 4, candidates in Pernem and Mandrem are still campaigning to muster as many postal ballots as possible. The two constituencies jointly have 1600 postal votes, and with winning margins being low, there is a chance that the postal ballots in these two constituencies could change the fortunes of the candidates.
Government servants entitled to cast postal ballots say they are under pressure from candidates to vote in their favour. The pressure ranges from inducement to threat, money and material offers, transfer to far off places and sacking from jobs.
Mandrem has 763 postal ballots and till now 87 government servants have cast their votes; in Pernem too approximately the same number of people have exercised their franchise.
Taking serious note of the threats and inducements, the Mandrem Block Congress Committee has filed a complaint with the Election Commission to take action on candidates who are pressuring the government servants.
Mandrem Block Congress President Narayan Redkar, briefing the media, alleged that Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar has been pressuring government servants to vote for him. “At least 763 postal ballot papers have been issued in Mandrem constituency and this number can make a big difference,” he explained.
“Braving the threats of Parsekar, Mandrem voters voted for change this time. But now, since the chief minister knows that he will lose, he is trying to pocket the postal ballots either by threat or inducement,” Redkar alleged.
“If government servants are pressurised, then, how can we say that we are democratic country? Every candidate had an opportunity to impress his voters by touting his credentials, but not by threat or inducement,” he pointed out.
Asked for his comments on the threat/inducement, MGP’s Pernem candidate Babu Azgaonkar said, “It is not right to get votes by pressuring people and by bribing them. I oppose this kind of behaviour. The Election Commission should look into the matter and must take strict action on such activities.”